Every year, I look forward to the holidays and Christmas shopping. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed spending time looking for the perfect gift – something meaningful, usually practical and often an item that the person would not get otherwise.
This year has felt different. We are in what is being called a “social recession.” In many ways, that may be more difficult to weather than a financial recession. During a social recession, we lose connection with others. Traditions are impacted and bonds unravel the longer we are apart. It happens in our families, with friends and, yes, in the workplace.
But we can do something to prevent bonds from fraying. Those meaningful gifts that I talked about earlier may just be part of the answer and could look a little different this year:
- The smaller, the better.
Look for opportunities to support small businesses as much as you can. You likely will find gifts that are more unique — and when you buy them, you also are giving a great gift to the business owners. Make it your goal this year to get as much as you can from small businesses in your community – and even throughout our country. When in doubt, check out Etsy. I visited a small, local refurbishing shop where I got a great deal on a 1960s Tonka Jeep for our five-year-old grandson in his favorite color (don't tell him - wink, wink).
- Think beyond the “Benjamins.”
Give your time to someone. Offer to babysit, go grocery shopping, stop by with lunch or run errands. There is often no better gift than the gift of time. It seems even more true this year. This is can be the hardest one to do, but that’s why it is so valuable.
- Find ways to personalize.
I don’t mean just monogrammed, although that can be a nice touch. Gifts are an opportunity for us to show people that we are paying attention. Did they start a new hobby this year? Did they mention wanting to try something new? Both are opportunities for thoughtful gifts.
- Initiate a fun activity.
How can you help others get outside, be active and have fun? This may be another way you can support small businesses. Give an excursion – kayaking down the river, a boat rental for a day, or passes to go snowboarding or skiing. Or perhaps buy the gear — snowshoes, ice skates, ping pong table, pickleball racquets or maybe a bike. There are lots of options. Think of an activity that they would enjoy and make it happen.
- Give the gift of service.
Think beyond gizmos, gadgets and things and give the gift of services this year. What are tasks that you can take off someone’s plate or splurges they would not otherwise do? Snow removal, yard maintenance, house cleaning and car detailing are some practical ideas. Other ideas include a professionally created outdoor planter for each season or a home office decorating service.
We need to be more creative with our traditions this year and keep the ones we can. When a team member recently asked me if we should put up the company’s Christmas tree, she looked surprised when I was quick to say “yes, let’s do all the decorations.” I know few will see them this year, but they bring a sense of comfort and normalcy for those who do.
The typical gatherings and gift distribution may not happen. But our commitment to showing others we appreciate them is needed now more than ever. What will you do for the people in your circle this year?